Born in Concord, N.H., in 1964, Howard Lederer was raised in a family of academics with a penchant for games of chance. As a child, along with his sisters Annie and Katy, he was initiated into all manner of games by his parents, who encouraged card-playing as a way for the family to spend time together.
Howard's competitive nature was encouraged at a young age by his father, Richard Lederer, who never gave Howard a free ride during the heated family battles. Richard, a well-known American author, teacher and linguist, was Howard's first opponent in the game that would eventually become his life-long passion.
In his teenage years however, it wasn't poker that Howard was most interested in but chess. After graduating high school he decided to put off his academic career to follow his love of the game to New York where he got his first exposure to the underground world of gambling: chess, bridge, backgammon and, of course, poker.
It wasn't long after he arrived in the Big Apple that he discovered a backroom card game at one of his favorite clubs. Almost immediately, chess took a backseat to playing poker full time. Like so many players who are now successful, Howard was a consistent loser in his first few years at the table. It got so bad that he was earning his nightly buy-in running errands for the other players at the club.
Perhaps the most formative period for Howard was the time he spent at the famous Mayfair Club in New York. Along with a slew of poker greats like Dan Harrington, Erik Seidel and Steve Zolotow, he spent a great deal of time developing an understanding of the intricacies of the game. It was about this time that No-Limit Hold'em made its way to New York . The group was fascinated with the game that has recently become the flagship variation of poker worldwide.
During his days playing and analyzing poker in New York, Howard began to tutor his younger sister Annie Duke on the game's finer points. The story goes that Annie would play all day and use the evenings to iron out the kinks in her strategy with her big brother. With Howard's help and a lot of practice, it wasn't long before she had learned all she could from the Professor and became an authority in her own right.
Howard's other sister Katy, although not a poker superstar, has gained notoriety as a writer. Judging by the fact that she has published a collection of poetry as well as a memoir about her life growing up in a family of gamblers, it seems talent runs in the Lederer family.
Howard Lederer played a part in more than a few famous poker stories
After playing and sharing strategy with some of the best in the world at the Mayfair Club for most of the 1980s, Howard made the jump to Vegas in 1993 and began his poker career in earnest. Playing cash tables as well as big buy-in No-Limit Hold'em tournaments, Howard quickly established himself as one of the major players in the game.
Over the years Howard has become a fixture in the poker world. A full member of Team Full Tilt, part of the infamous "Corporation" that played Texas banker Andy Beal for the highest stakes in poker history, and an authority on strategy with numerous instructional videos, Lederer has earned his nickname "The Professor." Known and named for his calm and calculating manner on the felt, Howard has played a part in more than a few famous poker stories.
Lederer, a vegetarian since receiving gastric bypass surgery to combat his weight problem, was once bet $10,000 by David Grey that he wouldn't eat meat. Sitting at a table in the high-stakes room at Bellagio, Lederer ordered - and consumed - a cheeseburger, forcing Grey to cough up the ten large.
In another talked-about prop bet, backgammon legend Mike Svobodny bet Howard and fellow pro Huck Seed $50,000 each that their weights wouldn't cross in the next year. At the time Lederer was topping the scales at over three hundred pounds while the six-foot-seven Seed weighed in at fewer than two hundred. This was a bet that Howard was destined to lose though as his weight loss attempts floundered and Seed actually lost weight in his efforts to bulk up.
Howard has a love for the game of poker that is massive even compared to that of other lifelong players. He is an integral part of Full Tilt Poker and one of the most intelligent commentators working today. The Professor continues to succeed in tournaments although his time is largely dominated by his involvement with many poker endeavors away from the felt.
He currently lives in Las Vegas with his wife Suzie, son Matti and three dogs.
When Howard was young and over-confident, he seemed too solid of a player for my tastes. I didn’t consider him to be very dangerous. Then I saw him make a few risky plays, that coincidentally didn’t work, and I remember saying to myself, “He’s a player now.”
It didn’t surprise me that in the following few years he won several major tournaments. I actually haven’t played much with Howard since he doesn’t play in the highest-stakes cash games.
For good poker players, Howard is the best play-by-play announcer. I have heard players criticize him for being too good and for giving away trade secrets.
Howard may be the most respected player in Internet newsgroups. He once confided that he was voted best player and most underrated player at the same time. Howard is articulate, has represented poker admirably, and is well-positioned to take advantage of the business of poker.
During one of Andy Beal’s head-up matches against our coalition of players, Howard and I each lost $2 million to Andy. The coalition won for the trip, but Howard was very disappointed by his result. I was content to sit out future matches, but Howard wanted to prove that he had been the victim of a bad run of cards. The next three times Andy came to town, Howard got his revenge, winning convincingly each time.